Miroslaw Balka

Miroslaw Balka’s exhibition was titled “Element der Exaktheit” (Element of Exactitude), and the aspiration to an unattainable exactitude is precisely what unified the various works: Their titles referred to their precise measurements in centimeters, and yet some slight deviation always annulled the rule. Balka’s sculptures were paired with projections of white light that evoked the disk of the moon, but the encounter between the luminous circle and the three-dimensional structures was problematic and finally unresolved. This was particularly evident in 91 x 78 x 50, ø30 x 40 + Mooned (all works 2003), a sculpture shaped like a bed frame whose surface is covered in a layer of pressed salt. A rotating projection was lined up to shine through a circular hole in the bed, but there was always a misalignment, and the infinitesimal moment of conjunction was captured only occasionally, when the moon, entering the hole, illuminated the cutout “hole” below, on which the brilliant white, porous salt recalled the lunar surface as seen from earth.

The relationship between Earth and moon was further investigated on the wall on the opposite side of the gallery. The image of a bright white disk, projected onto two MDF screens, was absorbed by the porous material, which in turn acquired a dark purplish tone, thereby altering the projection. Just under the screen an iron circle functioned as a basket, through which visitors were invited to throw a ball that otherwise rested on the ground. The ball seemed to allude to the terrestrial sphere, combining the idea of the cosmos with a human gesture that sometimes succeeds, sometimes doesn’t. Is this where exactitude lies?

The materials that Balka uses are precise and humble; the light is brilliant but inclined to become opaque and to change depending on the environment. In the evening the light of the projection prevailed, but the luminosity of daytime blurred the image, robbing it of its clarity. There is poetry in these permutations as well as a warning about our desire for accuracy. It is fine to strive for exactitude, Balka seems to say, but one should not forget that it is unachievable. In fact, it is by straying from the goal that rationality emerges, while one takes into account possible mysteries, of which the moon is among the most effective symbols but also one of the densest in cultural meanings.

The installation concluded with two pieces: 370 x 40 x 53, eleven strung-together tin cans hanging from a ring affixed high on the wall, which revolved slightly, moving the cans out of parallel position; and 101 x 91 x 12.3, (ø30 x 2 + Mooned), a platform resting on the floor on asymmetrical supports, onto which visitors stepped and sought to find their balance. Illuminated by white projections, these pieces constituted a thoughtful speculation on the finite quality of life and on the continual inducement to look beyond its opacity, to accept the apparent simplicity of the material, whether moonlight, salt, wood, a ball, or a tin can.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.